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How to be a great (product) leader – Part 4/4: best practices for 1:1 meetings

We talked about leadership responsibilities, characteristics, and frameworks. In this last part, I’ll give some guidance for new leaders on how you get most out of (bi-)weekly 1:1 meetings with their reports.

 

Why are those regular 1:1 meetings important?

  • Alignment: As a manager you often cannot keep track of what happens all week in your product manager’s teams. You probably also have relevant company updates (e.g. management rounds) to share. Lastly, it makes sense to sync on current goals regularly.
  • Advice: Your PMs could be stuck in their day-to-day operations that sometimes requires your expertise, advice, and outside perspective.
  • Feedback: To ensure that each of your team members can perform at their best, it is important to align expectations and provide feedback quickly on what was done well and what could have done better.

Prepare every meeting

To get most out of the meeting, think of what you want to get out of the meeting in advance. Block time for that in your calendar.

Give task and behavioural feedback

Give at least 50% of times positive feedback: recognition for hard work, valuable skills, helpful advice, good values, kudos for recent achievements.

When you have negative feedback, share it immediately and straight forward:

  • communicate expectations if performance is not at the level I want (what does a great job look like for you compared to mediocre or bad job?)
  • be precise how the outcome should have been instead / what could have been done differently
  • follow up with “Does this feedback resonate with you? why or why not?”
  • in the end let the person summarize takeaways and next steps

A good way for you as a leader to observe behaviours in need for improvement or good ones, that you can share in your next 1:1, is to  take notes in meetings your report is in there. Discuss together beforehand what you should closely watch (e.g. communication, appearance in meeting, presentation).

In general never critize your reports in a meeting with others. Praise is ok in a group, critic should only happen in 1:1 meetings.

Questions you can ask

Here is collection of great questions for 1:1 meetings:

  • How challenging is the current work for you from 1 to 5? (1 = not demanding at all, 3= in line with my skills, 4 = a bit more than what I feel comfortable with, 5 = I struggle to do a great job)
  • How much is your work in line with what you expected when you joined us?
  • What do you currently miss? What do you want to do more?
  • How can I help you so you can make a better job / be more productive?
  • What are your current top priorities? What is the #1 thing you need to accomplish next week?
  • What’s the best use of our time today?
  • What does your ideal outcome look like in your current project and do you see anything threatening it?
  • What could you do to achieve X? What is your first step?
  • Would you like more or less feedback/direction from me? Why/ why not?
  • On what aspect of your job would you like more help or coaching?
  • What’s a recent situation you wish you handled differently? What would you change?

 

Product Coach Petra Wille also published a very handy card set with further questions specific for product leaders: https://www.strongproductpeople.com/cards

Receive feedback

What leaders often forget is to not only provide feedback but also collect feedback regularly about themselves, so they know what they can do better as a leader.

 


That was a brief introduction for emerging leaders into the work of modern leadership. Let me know in the comments what helped you to grow into a leadership role and become a great leader.

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